I little while back-- okay, so more than a little while ago-- Luke Everest asked me to do a guest blog. It's terrible because I got all "Yeahguestblog!" and then "OhnowhatamIgonnawrite!" But it's here if you want to read it. I kind of prefer that you didn't. Anyway, Luke then wrote a guest post for my blog which I summarily forgot about. To be fair, I was continent swapping. Anyway, see Luke's contribution below. He does a much better job than I did.
ps, He's from across the pond so you'll have to endure un-American spelling habits.
pps. It's good for you.
The Light at the End of the Myth
This post is inspired by some discussions I've been trying to avoid over on LinkedIn.
I'll be honest: my blog is every inch as much an attempt to keep my head screwed on as it is an attempt to help aspirant writers. I am an aspirant writer. Sure, I've got representation, I've worked with some pretty impressive people and I'm published. But I'm not finished yet, because I'm not dead yet.
When aspirant authors approach this task, it's monumental. And success is a fog horn in the middle of an ocean: it only leads you farther. Art doesn't have limitations.
On a related note, self-control is not in my experience the creative person's most common strength. We're dreamers.
Dreams get skewed.
In the LinkedIn conversation I'm trying (and sometimes failing) to avoid, there's this person who keeps telling aspirants that it's a Myth (yes, she actually capitalises "myth") that quality fiction can find an audience.
Her answers are: e-books; money.
What? E-books + a large educated population = more readers than ever in history and fewer overheads for publishing companies. I don't have to be a sociologist (and I am one) to know that what we call Modernity were incredibly ruthless, industrious times. Money does not weigh more heavily on the arts now than it did fifty years ago for any innate cultural reason. It might, slightly, because we're in a recession, but that's a very different story.
This woman isn't stupid. She's angry, and she's a dreamer. She's invented her own malaise: that the world has stifled her.
Fear leads to self denial (which leads to anger, Yoda--don't skip relevant details). Now, if you subtract self denial from the lady's malaise, what do you get? Admission of fear. She's afraid of this world's vastness. Seeking through it seems impossible, so she's invented reasons why she's better than it, and thus shouldn't need to try.
She is arguing that agents and publishers no longer help an author with their manuscripts.
Not so. Mine does.
She's saying there are many great books out there waiting to be found.
Do you think Graham Greene could write The Heart of the Matter, send it to Random House, and get it rejected? If your answer is, "Maybe", then well done. Manuscripts get rejected all the time and they always have.
The frightened lady is correct about two things:
First, the arts industry is very tough to enter. There's a great deal of competition. In short, it's daunting for a reason.
Second, it's all outside of everyone's control. That's true of all industries. They can be played, even manipulated, not controlled.
Where she goes wrong is in her attitude, and I'm using her as an example not to be cruel, but to warn artists against forging her kind of emotional armour. If Graham Greene were to get his manuscript rejected, there are two things he could do.
First, try to improve his work.
Second, submit it somewhere else.
I'd imagine a writer of his quality would attempt both.